Fiji coach John McKee has made four changes to his “jitter-free” team which lost to England for Wednesday’s Pool A match against Australia in Cardiff.
All four changes come in the forwards with hooker Sunia Koto, second-rower Apisalome Ratuniyawara and No. 8 Sakiusa Matadigo replaced by Tuapati Talemaitoga, Tevita Cavubati and Netani Talei respectively.
Blindside flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu’s place was taken by Clermont’s Peceli Yato after the former was found guilty of a tip tackle against England and suspended for one week.
McKee said the fact his team only had five days between matches was not a problem.
“We play with short turnarounds in the Pacific Nations Cup, so in terms of our systems, recovery and analysis, we have practised that,” he said.
“We have made some changes to our forward pack which were pre-planned, to make sure we get a number of fresh players into the line-up but keeping the continuity with the core of our team.”
Fiji fought bravely against England before going down 35-11 in their opening match, but could realistically have stayed more in touch had they bagged their kickable points with both five-eighth Ben Volavola and giant winger Nemani Nadolo missing kicks.
McKee admitted the potential selection of Josh Matavesi at 10 had been “the main discussion point.”
“In the end we have gone with the same backline combination. We believe by keeping the combination it will help us build on our performance against England.”
Fiji’s Pool A has been dubbed by many as the group of death, containing not only hosts England and two-time winners Australia, but also Wales.
“We have been well aware of the challenge ahead of us since the draw came out and we qualified,” McKee said.
“Twickenham was a massive challenge for us take on (for the England match) with it being their home ground and doubling up as the opening game and ceremony.
“But our first game is behind us now and although we have another massive game coming up, we won’t have those first-game jitters.”
Australia named a very strong side to play Fiji, with a backrow featuring two proven openside flankers in Michael Hooper and David Pocock.
“We suspected Australia would go with Hooper and Pocock in the back row,” acknowledged McKee.
“That was the combination that was so successful in the Bledisloe Cup game in Sydney just over a month ago, so they’ve gone with that again and it gives them good mobility in the back row.”
McKee added that Japan’s shock 34-32 victory over South Africa, widely regarded as world rugby’s biggest ever upset, would inspire his team.
“It certainly will. It’s great for the game and the boys were very happy for the Japanese team,” the Kiwi coach said.
Fijian team to play the Wallabies:
Metuisela Talebula, Waisea Nayacalevu, Vereniki Goneva, Gabiriele Lovobalavu, Nemani Nadolo, Ben Volavola, Nikola Matawalu, Netani Talei, Akapusi Qera (capt), Peceli Yato, Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Manasa Saulo, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Campese Ma’afu.
Res: Viliame Veikoso, Peni Ravai, Isei Colati, Nemia Soqeta, Malakai Ravulo, Nemia Kenatale, Joshua Matavesi, Aseli Tikoirotuma.